Everyone took notice of Jimmie Johnson Sunday. You had to. He led 99 laps and at one point, was ahead of the next car by nearly six seconds.
“Jimmie Johnson was in his own country today,” Kyle Busch, said following his second-place finish. “That was the best we had, and it seemed like that was the best anybody had.”
“It didn’t really matter if you were in front of him or not, he was going to pass you,” added third-place finisher Greg Biffle.
Jimmie Johnson, Brickyard 400 champion, again.
Instead of the long race title that nearly doesn’t fit in a tweet, Indy may as well rename it , ‘the Jimmie Johnson 400 at the Brickyard.’ He has owned the place, celebrating in victory circle four of the last seven years.
The race was quiet when it came to big crashes or aggressive passing. The first yellow flag came out on lap 42 for a minor one-car incident and the first real crash occurred on lap 134, when three cars involved and points leader Matt Kenseth’s day was done.
Johnson started sixth but quickly found his way to the front of the pack. He had the fastest car on the track and it wasn’t even close. The four-time winner credited confidence, comfort among the team and excellent pit stops as reasons for another win.
“I knew second or third lap yesterday on the track (during qualifying) that we were gonna have an awfully good chance of winning.”
His win was the largest margin of victory in race history, at 4.758 seconds over Kyle Busch. Johnson earns $430,461 for his 58th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win.
“It’s a huge moment and I really enjoyed the lap around in the race car,” Johnson said while smiling, after his celebration. “The lap in the Camaro around the racetrack with the crew guys and my family and everybody, those moments really help soak it in.”
In elite company
Johnson wins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway S for the fourth time, joining teammate Jeff Gordon as the only two to accomplish that feat in a stock car. Al Unser, A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears all won the Indianapolis 500 four times and Michael Schumacher has five MotoGP victories.
“To be able to join racing legends, my heroes — people I’ve looked up to my entire life — is a huge honor,” Johnson said post-race.
It looked just as bad on television as it did in person. The straight-away appeared half-full, some stands were closed off, and turn three was mostly empty. It’s very difficult to judge a place with such massive seating but I estimate the attendance around 90,000 — clearly a race low. (NASCAR announced it 125,000.)
It’s difficult to get a handle on the dwindling attendance. Speedway officials tried something new, building this into a ‘Super Weekend’ with four races, including the Nationwide Series on Saturday at IMS for the first time.
One indication of the crowd came on my drive in at a peak time, when it only took about five additional minutes than any other time. During some previous Indy 500s, it’s taken over an hour.
Three cheers for Junior
The crowd roared after the race, when the public address announcer said that Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads the point standings, a first since September, 2004. Earnhardt Jr. finished fourth, a career-best in Indy, and trumped Matt Kenseth to take a 14-point advantage.
Other notable finishes
Paul Menard (last year’s winner)-14